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One of my favorite sessions from WWDC each year is the “What’s New in Apple Device Management” session that details the upcoming enhancements to Apple’s MDM APIs and other features that system administrators can use to more efficiently manage Apple devices in the enterprise. So what’s new for 2020 with Apple device management? Let’s take a look.
Lights Out Management for Mac Pro
For folks who manage data centers, new functionality for the Mac Pro will be a welcome addition. Lights Out Management for Mac Pro will allow you to remotely start up, shut down, and reboot your Mac Pro. It will require macOS Big Sur and the new Lights Out Management payload from your MDM vendor.
Your MDM server will send a command to a LOM controller on the same subnet, which will then talk to your LOM-enabled devices. For data center managers, this functionality will speed up a lot of processes, and I hope to see it extended to the Mac Mini in the future.
Mac Supervision changes
Now, any Mac enrolled in a user-approved MDM enrollment will now have the same capabilities as a Mac enrolled via the device enrollment program. For BYOD environments, this change will significantly assist IT departments.
Admins have the same special abilities, such as controlling activation lock and leveraging bootstrap tokens, just as they do if the device was enrolled using automated device enrollment. You can query and list local users and choose to delete them, as well as replace or remove profiles and install supervised restrictions using MDM commands and schedule software updates.
Managed Software Updates
With macOS Big Sur, Apple is also adding changes to how software update works. You can now force client Macs to accept updates and then reboot. Major releases of macOS and non-OS updates can now be deferred for up to 90 days (similar to iOS). Apple is also removing the software update catalog and the Ignore Flag for managed devices.
Content caching is a great way to speed up downloads of apps, books, and other content across your network. Instead of each user downloading them from Apple, it’s downloaded a single time and shared across the local network. Apple is adding new metrics around content caching using a new Content Caching Information MDM command. This command will help you determine if content caching is turned on, working, and improving your devices download content faster. Content caching now supports Internet Recovery for faster deployment devices after being wiped.
The initial boot image isn’t included, but the full 6-gigabyte recovery image is cached, which will restore Macs on your network faster than ever.
Wrap-up on what’s new with managing Apple devices
I am excited to see the enhancements that Apple has brought, particularly to macOS, this year. Software update enhancements have been at the top of a lot of IT departments’ wish lists, so these will be welcome additions as the speed of Apple’s software releases isn’t slowing down. I encourage you to watch the entire video and read the transcript, as these are just some of the high points, and additional items are coming around Apple Configurator.